BEMIDJI, Minn. — It took three years for Owen Hall to shoot his first whitetail deer. He had some chances as a 12- and 13-year-old, but his shots missed their targets.
There haven’t been many misses since then. The 90-year-old Bemidji man will be back in the woods this weekend, hoping to bag his 101st deer.
“What an inspiration,” said Greg Hall, the oldest son of Owen and wife Helen. “If we could be that fortunate ourselves to be able to hunt at that age it would be phenomenal.”
All of Owen’s deer hunting has taken place in Eckles Township northwest of Bemidji, near the farm where he was raised. It all started before he was old enough to get a license, when Owen was allowed to join his father and others in the “Hall Gang” for the fall hunt. When he finally reached the age of 12 and no longer was just a spectator, it was the beginning of a 78-year hunting career. He only missed two seasons that were canceled because of fire danger or low deer population.
Owen remembers that first successful shot like it was yesterday.
“It was a forked-horn buck,” he said. “Two prongs on each side. I shot it on a field on the old farm. I walked out of the woods, found my dad and he helped me go get it. I had already dressed it. "
Because he has always been part of a group of hunters, there have been many times when Owen has been able to shoot more than one deer in a season. On two occasions, he has gotten three. He shot his 100th deer last fall.
There were some lean years, however. "For six years in the 1950s I was skunked," he said, "so that happens, too."
Owen and Helen have been married 69 years. They spent 32 years in Wadena, where Owen was a math teacher, before moving back to the Bemidji area in retirement. Their five sons — Greg, Tim, Steve, Kendall and Brian — are regulars in the Hall hunting tradition. A sixth son, Keith, died in 1988. Owen and Helen have 17 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter.
Four generations of Halls will join this year’s gang, led by the prolific and proud Owen. They will carry on the routine that started nearly 80 years ago — settle in deer stands for the first few hours, then meet for coffee around 9:30 a.m., then stay together for drives the rest of the day.
“It’s hard to put in words,” he said. “I look forward to it every year. I’m so proud of the boys, and they’re so good to me.”